Monday, March 11, 2013

Well, hello!

We have two regular visitors to our screened porch, two brown geckoes, each about three inches long. Stripey is slender, with a long wispy tail and a white stripe down his back. Stumpy is plumper, no stripe, with a truncated tail. They come and go through the crack under the screen door. Dinner is outside. I do believe they come in for the company.

Certainly they are friendly enough. They don't seem the least put off by our presence. They scout around in their stop-and-go fashion, their dewlaps flagging. Stripey likes to climb. He will jump onto my finger if I try to touch him, then leap away like a Flying Wallenda. Stumpy seems more the philosopher, content to ponder. They have nothing to do with each other.

They are welcome into the house, but seem content with the porch. I'd like to introduce them to the ants on the kitchen counter, although I am not sure why I have more antipathy for ants than geckoes. Personality, I assume. There's something about those big, lidless geckos eyes that say, "Love me and I'll love you back."

Did I say "personality"? Yes, exactly. The very fact that we have given Stripey and Stumpy names, that they are uniquely recognizable, is the reason we welcome them. They have an incipient personhood, unique identities. Every ant is -– for all practical purposes –- the same. I can't imagine naming an ant.

Here is Ursula Goodenough on personhood:
I start with my egg cell, one of 400,000 in my mother's ovaries. It meets with one of the hundreds of millions of sperm cells produced each day by my father. Astonishing that I happen at all, truly astonishing. And then I cleave, I gastrulate, I implant, I grow tiny fetal kidneys and a tiny heart. The genes of my father and the genes of my mother switch on and off and on again in all sorts of combinations, all sorts of chords and tempos, to create something both eminently human and eminently new. Once I am born, my unfinished brain slowly completes it maturation in the context of my unfolding experience, and during my quest to understand what it is to be a person, I come to understand that there can be but one me.
Stripey and Stumpy have crossed a threshold, barely perhaps, of manifesting uniqueness. We recognize something in them that we recognize in ourselves, one of the greatest mysteries of life -- the budding emergence of a self.